Rights groups call on public to resist brewing dictatorship

Four days before the 47th anniversary of Martial Law, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) https://tfdp.net/ presents its mid-term human rights situation report of Duterte’s administration in a recent press conference held in Quezon City. 

“We are living in dangerous times again and many seem not to bother nor care that the whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness of Duterte is eating the nation’s soul and trampling on people’s rights,” said Fr. Christian Buenafe, O.Carm, chairperson of TFDP.  

According to TFDP’s midterm human rights assessment of the Duterte administration, “[Based on the data presented,] the Philippines is failing to strengthen its democratic traditions. It is regressing in the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights. Its elected leaders are shamelessly transgressing the rule of law, and tilting the balance of power to favor the executive branch. Democratic institutions are under attack and those who try to protect and strengthen them are targeted, vilified, and demonized. Evidently, an atmosphere of suppression of human rights exists.” 
TFDP together with members of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) are part of the Philippine CSOs delegation in the ongoing 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat referred to these human rights defenders as pathological liars and purveyors of fake information on alleged human rights violations in the country during these UNHRC sessions. 

An article posted dated 14 September 2019 stated that on the Philippine News Agency (PNA) website https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1080461Usec Catura was quoted as saying,
“Sadly they are Filipinos who represent a minuscule group of oppositionists back home, but unfortunately the loudest, whose main objective has always been to humiliate and embarrass our country before the world.”

In reaction, Nilda Lagman-Sevilla, Chairperson of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) said, “Usec Catura’s statement was unfounded. He is the agent of fake information himself and not us, the NGOs. If we were to go by Mr. Catura’s assertion then the UN Human Rights Council has been deceived when it voted to conduct an investigation into allegations of human rights violations in the Philippines. Is Mr. Catura prepared to accuse these country representatives of being dumb and stupid as to believe so-called ‘pathological liars’?”

“TFDP will remain steadfast in our statements and assertion about the worsening human rights situation in the country caused by Duterte’s whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness. Our assertion is supported with evidences, documentation and facts as stated in our mid-term assessment report. Human rights defenders organizations like TFDP have its established record and unblemished reputation when it comes to documentation of cases human rights violations since the late dictator Marcos’ martial law period up to the present,” Fr. Buenafe stressed. 

The Philippine government, the group added, cannot deny the fact that church people, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders are randomly attacked.Their institutions and organizations are threatened. They also said that, issuances of unverified information fabricating “truths” and releasing trolls for propaganda could lead to the filing of trumped-up charges and allegations against them individually or as a group. Labeling their works as “destabilization” moves and part of “oust Duterte” plot is defamation in its highest form.

“It is also a blatant lie for Usec Catura to claim that NGOs will not talk and engage the government. He himself is supposed to be very much aware that we have engaged his office for several human rights concerns before,” Fr. Buenafe added.

“It is not us the NGOs who are shaming the government. They need no help from us when it comes to humiliation and embarrassment. They have done that entirely on their own,” Lagman-Sevilla said.

TFDP human rights situation report on Duterte’s midterm also claimed that, “rules are circumvented to cater to the “whims” of the highest official. And, making “acceptable” what is malicious imputation of imaginary crime or impeachment of virtue, or reputation to silence them and to rouse public hatred, contempt, ridicule or even crime. This could result in the shrinking of democratic space for meaningful engagement.

“The Philippines is witnessing a tyrant in the making. Demanding “blind obedience” among its pawns, we see the active execution of “commands-turned-policies” in the issuance of verbal orders devoid of any written documentation or justification,” Fr. Buenafe continued. 

What the Marcos martial law experience taught us is that when “injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty,” TFDP concluded.